Baby Names: Spelling Counts

a Name Sage post by: Abby View all Name Sage posts

She’s found the perfect name for her Fall 2016 baby. But how to spell it? The Name Sage wades into the data to find the best answer – but wants to hear your opinion, too! 

Lindsey writes:

I’m trying to decide on a name for my little girl and I’m stuck.

The options are either just Calli or a longer version of the name, like Calianna. (You pronounce the –anna like Anna in Frozen.) Or maybe Calli (first name) with Anna (middle name) – except I might merge it into Calianna anyway.

I like short and simple, but I like the longer name, too. But will spelling be a problem? Pronunciation?

My name doesn’t really have nicknames, so it’s always been pretty simple! I’d love some input.

The Name Sage replies:

I think many parents end up debating long versus short. Short names can feel breezy and modern. Longer names come with options – casual or formal, tailored or romantic – and those have their appeal, too.

In many cases, parents really only like the short form, and write in looking for permission to skip the formal name. But that doesn’t sound like your situation at all.

Instead, it sounds like you love Calianna, and like Calli as a sometimes option. After all, your favorite middle name for Calli is … Anna.

There’s no downside to using the longer name, even if it turns out that your daughter prefers the nickname. After all, shortening Calianna to Cali seems as natural as calling Elizabeth Liz or Samantha Sam.

So the question becomes Calianna or Callianna? Or some other spelling entirely?

The name is rare; it’s not in the current US Top 1000 in any spelling. But it’s not unknown, either. In 2015, over 150 girls received some form of the name. In order of popularity, they are:

  • Caliana, 57 girls
  • Kaliana, 41 girls
  • Calianna, 32 girls
  • Kalianna, 23 girls
  • Kaliannah, 10 girls
  • Calliana, 5 girls

As for Cali, the most common spelling is actually Callie, but Cali isn’t too far behind. Kali is also in the current US Top 1000. Based on these small numbers, I think Calianna is perfectly reasonable, but if you prefer to use the most common form it would be Caliana, nickname Cali. That’s pretty consistent with similar names – Eliana and Liliana are the most common spellings, too.

Now, a quick reality check: many unusual names are misspelled and mispronounced. That’s likely to be the case with a name like Calianna, at least some of the time!

If this keeps you up at night, you might want to consider another elaborate, romantic name with built-in nicknames – but one with a more commonly accepted spelling and pronunciation. Some thoughts would be Giovanna, Clarissa, Tatiana, or Audrina.

But if you don’t mind a little bit of repetition, Calianna feels like a very 2016 name for a daughter. She’ll fit right in with girls named Elianna, Juliana, and Lillianna. It’s a romantic choice that comes with options – and it sounds like you’re already in love with the name!

Just to be sure, though, let’s a have a quick poll. I’m curious to see if the readers have a different opinion about the best spelling.

How would you spell this name?

  1. ACaliana
  2. BCalianna
  3. CCali/Calli/Callie plus Anna as a middle name
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About the author


Abby Sandel is nameberry's Senior Editor and resident Name Sage. Look for her baby name news round-ups every Monday, and her Name Sage columns on Wednesdays. Abby is the creator of the baby name blog Appellation Mountain and mom to Alex and Clio. For a chance to have your questions answered, contact Abby at
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13 Responses to “Baby Names: Spelling Counts”

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namergirl3 Says:

July 26th, 2016 at 11:34 pm

I think this was really sound advice. In this situation, I really think that Caliana would be the best option. If she spelled the ending “Anna” then that is what she would get..if she wants the “Ana” pronunciation, she should spell it “Ana.”

ElsaAnne Says:

July 27th, 2016 at 2:06 am

I actually prefer Calliana or Callianna, rather than using the single ‘l’. How about using Calanthe, Calla, Calliope, Calogera, Camellia, Camilla, Camille or Caroline, all with the nickname Callie/Calli?

Myosotis Says:

July 27th, 2016 at 3:07 am

I agree completely with @namergirl3. In predominantly English speaking countires, Ana is usually AH-nuh, and Anna is ANN-uh (A like in apple). So the Ana ending makes most sense. Then Cali/Calli would most likely be pronunced the same, but Caliana is simpler and may be easier to spell, so Caliana works best. A very interesting name (in a good way)!

Maple10 Says:

July 27th, 2016 at 5:35 am

I like Calliope as a long form of Callie. Or Callista, maybe Catalina. I also like Calla on its own.

hazelgrey Says:

July 27th, 2016 at 10:47 am

I like Caliana/Calliana (or if you want to reach out, Calliope) with the nickname Callie. “Cali” looks like an abbreviation of California. The nickname doesn’t have to be the exact same spelling as the legal name (think Rebecca/Becky, Elizabeth/Bettie, or Deborah/Debbie).

mistletoenargle Says:

July 27th, 2016 at 1:47 pm

I really love Caliana!

catcher5 Says:

July 27th, 2016 at 2:40 pm

I like the single “l” in Cali. The double “ll” make me want to say call, as in call someone on the phone. And I agree that Ana seems they way to spell it if you want the Frozen pronunciation. If I saw Anna with two “n”s I would say short ‘a’ as in apple. I am also more in favor of the Cali as the first Ana as the middle, but I think that just comes down to personal preference.

jmsouthern Says:

July 27th, 2016 at 2:43 pm

My daughter is Calyssa. I named her that partly because I loved the nickname Callie, and expected to call her that most of the time. Unexpectedly, though, Callie never stuck. By the time she was a few weeks old, we’d stopped using Callie for her altogether. Now at nearly 13 years old, she LOVES her distinctive name and giggles at the multitude of ways that the baristas at Starbucks misspell her name.

emiliafisher Says:

July 27th, 2016 at 8:43 pm

I think I would go with the double ll, Calliana, to prevent people saying Cay-li-ana if you spelled it Caliana. For some reason, I also like the way it looks slightly better. I agree with catcher5 and and namergirl3 that the Ana spelling makes more sense. Calianna/Callianna makes me want to use a short A like in apple. If it was me, I would spell the nickname as Callie because Cali makes me think of Southern California, which isn’t a super positive association to me. I love the sound of it, though, and think you have the makings of a great name, however you decide to go!

alom Says:

July 28th, 2016 at 11:47 am

I definitely vote for the longer version, however you decide to spell it. I have a middle name that is often in two-part first names — think Mary Anne — and I often I get my first and middle name combined into “Mary Anne” though my first name is just “Mary”. I think Calli Anna would cause the same confusion so might as well combine it into a name you love!

holly6174 Says:

July 28th, 2016 at 8:48 pm

I would pronounce most of these spellings differently… Here is how I would pronounce them if I happened upon them:

Caliana – Ca (like the Ca in cat)-lee-aw-nuh
Caliana – Ca (like cat)-lee-Anna (like Anna Duggar not Anna from frozen)
Calliana – Call-ee-aw-nuh
Callianna – Call-ee-Anna(Duggar)

So to me, to get the pronunciation I believe is desired the only one that works is Caliana. You could certainly go with the others but I would expect a lot of mispronunciation, though you might end up with that anyways.

As for the name itself, I definitely prefer Caliana to Calli Anna, and while it’s really not my taste I do think she would fit in nicely with other 2016 names while still standing out.

conniecam Says:

July 30th, 2016 at 11:04 am

Choose the spelling that best matches the sound you’re going for. One “l” version sets up short “a” pronunciation similar to “Catalina.” Two”ll” version sets up the “call” sound. I think most people will pronounce either “ana” or “anna” as “awna.” As a teacher, these names always take a little getting used to, so expect that to happen.

HistoryGirl Says:

August 10th, 2016 at 8:43 pm

Honestly, I would use Callieanna as a nickname, not as a formal name just because there are apparently so many spelling and pronunciation issues. Also, I’m just not a fan of made up names. There are many names that lend Callie and Anna as nicknames.

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